Home Destinations Five Alberta Parks to Visit This Winter

Five Alberta Parks to Visit This Winter

by Karen Ung
Winter is the perfect time to see more sunrises and sunsets, play in the snow, and explore Alberta. Here are five Alberta Parks that offer tons of winter fun: Cold Lake, Crimson Lake, Castle Provincial Park, Cypress Hills, and Kananaskis.
Snowshoeing at West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis
Snowshoeing at West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis

1. Cold Lake

Cold Lake is a vibrant town of 15,000 people in northeast Alberta. Where boreal forest meets parkland, you can: fish for monster lake trout or cross country ski at Cold Lake Provincial Park; ski and tube at Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort; cross country ski, toboggan, and curl at the Golf and Winter Club; and fatbike or snowmobile the Iron Horse Trail.
Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort, Cold Lake
Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort, Cold Lake
Image Credit: Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort
Cross country ski and snowshoe at Cold Lake Provincial Park. There are 10 kilometres of groomed cross country ski trails. Snowshoeing is permitted throughout the park (except on ski trails).

Cold Lake Golf and Winter Club also has groomed cross country country ski trails, snowshoeing, six curling sheets, tobogganing hills making it a mini winter village!

Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort is a friendly ski hill 15 minutes from town. It has 13 runs – mostly green and blue – and a terrain park, tube park, and skating rink on 60 acres. The hill is well serviced with a Quad Chair,Triple Chair, 3 Carpet Lifts and 13,000 sq ft lodge. The vertical drop is 107 m (similar to Winsport in Calgary). Open Wednesday to Sunday with night skiing and tubing on Saturdays. Rentals available onsite. Affordable: Your whole family can ski for $99. Mark your calendars – Winter Festival is on February 16. For more information, visit www.kinosoo.ca/.

Kinosoo, Cold Lake’s original Dene name, means “Big Fish,” and to this day, fishing is pretty epic here. Plan for 12-20 pound lake trout. There are also pike, perch, walleye and burbot. Cold Lake is Alberta’s fifth largest lake and is almost 400 feet deep, so it is one of the last to freeze. The ice is 2-3 feet deep by late January most years, but check the ice thickness every time you venture on it. For ice safety tips, please read Pond and Lake Ice Safety.

The paved Millenium Trail, running from the base to the marina, is maintained year round for walking and biking.

For a nature escape, ride the Iron Horse Trail through boreal forest, hills, and prairie. This 300-kilometre section of the Trans Canada Trail is an old rail trail that is steeped in history. Learn more at the 20 rest stops along the way. Hiking, biking, snowmobiling, cross country skiing or horseback riding permitted.

When the temperature dips, retreat to The Energy Centre, Cold Lake’s state-of-the-art sports and fitness facility, for skating, fitness classes, concerts, and more.

Read about my fishing trip to Cold Lake here: Legendary Fishing and Fish Tales at Cold Lake.

2. Crimson Lake Provincial Park

Crimson Lake is a short drive from Rocky Mountain House and is only 230 km from Calgary and Edmonton. In winter, enjoy ice fishing, a maintained skating rink and lakeside skateway; groomed cross-country ski trails, snowshoeing, and fat biking at this popular park. If you’d like to make it a weekend, the winter rate for power sites is only $20 per night!

Upcoming Events in Crimson Lake Provincial Park

Snowy Saturdays start January 19, 2019. Attend an interpretive Learn to Snowshoe program (rentals available), roast marshmallows, or buy a coffee or treats. The store is open Saturdays from 11 am – 4 pm.

Winterfest on Family Day Long Weekend (February 16) promises to be a ton of fun with: Snowshoe and ice fishing demonstrations, Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Plunge, Pioneer Winterfest Maker’s Market, kids’ crafts, games, sleigh rides, skating, concession, and more. FREE!

Visit Alberta Parks – Crimson Lake Provincial Park for upcoming events and camping information.

3. Castle Provincial Park

Castle Provincial Park offers wild adventures on the path less traveled. Get away from it all in Alberta’s newest mountain park. Snowshoe or ice fish at Beaver Mines Lake; cross-country ski, fat bike, or snowshoe the Syncline Trail System (20 kilometres of groomed trails); ski at Castle Mountain Resort; or go snowmobiling.

Snowshoeing at Beaver Mines Lake, Castle Provincial Park
Snowshoeing at Beaver Mines Lake, Castle Provincial Park
Alberta Parks offers some great guided programs like Friday night Starshoeing – only $30 for a family, $40 including snowshoe rental. Enjoy a fire and cocoa, then hit the trails with a red headlight (provided) so you can enjoy stargazing in this quiet corner of the Rockies. Learn to Ice Fish, Learn to Ski, and Winter Survival programs are coming soon.
Guided fatbike tours, and private tours for small groups are also available. For more information, contact 403-627-1152 or email Swparks@gov.ab.ca.
Stay at Castle River Bridge Campground (rustic, bring your own firewood), Castle Mountain Resort (Castle Mountain Hostel and vacation rentals), B&Bs in Beaver Mines, or Pincher Creek.

Castle Mountain Provincial Park is located half an hour southwest of Pincher Creek, 1.5 hours from Lethbridge, and 2.5 hours from Calgary.

For more information, read our story: Winter Fun in Castle Provincial Park.

Spina Trail, Pass Powderkeg, Blairmore

While you’re in the area… visit Crowsnest Pass

  • Hike to Star Creek Falls and watch the ice climbers.
  • Visit Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and learn about life before, during, and after the slide
  • Ski at Pass Powderkeg, a hidden gem in Blairmore. This small ski hill has 24 runs, a terrain park, great ski school, and several special events all season long such as Ladies Guided Snowshoeing and Youth Nights.

5. Cypress Hills Provincial Park

Cypress Hills Provincial Park in Winter
Cypress Hills Provincial Park in Winter
As soon as snow falls at Cypress Hills Provincial Park, it’s transformed into a winter village. Last season, we skied at Hidden Valley Ski Resort, snowshoed in to a backcountry hut at Reesor Lake, made an igloo, skated the skating track through Old Baldy Campground, cross country skied at Spring Creek, did some stargazing, slid down the “backyard luge” track, and went kicksledding along Elkwater Lake. It was hard to believe we were in southeast Alberta!

Cypress Hills is super family friendly with lots of warming huts, a nice Visitor Centre, Learning Centre, and several free and affordable programs. Equipment rentals are also available at the Visitor Centre. Escape the ordinary and enjoy a fun and relaxing getaway to Cypress Hills this winter!

 Kicksledding at Elkwater Lake, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Kicksledding at Elkwater Lake, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Image Credit: Chris Wheeler
For more information, please read 10 Things to Do in Cypress Hills this Winter.

Read about our awesome snowshoe trip to Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut here.

6. Kananaskis Country

Kananaskis Country is an awesome winter playground that encompasses several Alberta Parks. Here are a few things to do in Kananaskis in the snowy season.

Cross-country ski at: Canmore Nordic Centre, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis Valley, Smith-Dorrien Trails, or Mount Shark. If you want to xc ski with your dog, try West Bragg Creek (some offleash areas but for your safety, it is recommended that dogs be kept on a leash) or Mount Shark (dogs must be on leash).

  • Canmore Nordic Centre is groomed daily so the ski trails are always in great shape! They have a large daylodge with concession and warming hut in the meadow. For more information, please read Cross Country Skiing at Canmore Nordic Centre.
  • When there’s enough snow, the Bill Milne Trail (Ribbon Creek to Mount Kidd Campground) is perfect for beginners.
  • Mountain Road at West Bragg Creek is another good one for beginners as the elevation gain is gentle and gradual for the first couple kilometres.
  • Experienced skiers will love Blueberry Hill and Lookout in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
Cross country skiing at Canmore Nordic Centre
Cross country skiing at Canmore Nordic Centre

Hike / Snowshoe to ice falls: Troll Falls is a family favorite. Chantilly Falls is a hidden gem with three sets of 100 m high ice falls (first set is 3.1 km down Evan Thomas Creek Trail; two more falls 800 m further). Ice cleats recommended. Near Exshaw, hike Grotto Canyon‘s frozen creek bed to pictographs and ice falls.

Grotto Canyon Ice Walk, Kananaskis
Grotto Canyon Ice Walk, Kananaskis

For more fun things to do in Kananaskis Valley (Kananaskis Village / Nakiska area), check out our Kananaskis Valley Winter Activity Guide which includes skiing, tubing, guided fatbiking, and more!

Winter backcountry camping:  The Point (3.4 km hike) has outhouses, bear lockers, and firepits. Rummel Lake (5 km snowshoe in) is more rustic and only has outhouses, no fires permitted.

Upcoming Events in Kananaskis

Avalanche Awareness Day 

January 20, 2019  11 am – 2:30 pm
Burstall Pass Day Use, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Kananaskis Speaker and Discovery Series: Nature Inspired Art, Winter Survival Skills, Winter Ecology (one session per month)

Have fun this winter and let me know which destinations you liked best!
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Jacqueline Hayes January 8, 2019 - 1:47 PM

Thanks for all the info again! Didnt even know kick sledding was a thing.

Playoutsidegal January 14, 2019 - 4:40 PM

You're very welcome!! Kicksledding was new to me too! A good workout, but fun!

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